Chapter One: The Training Ground
After the end of World War II, the Japanese government needed a way to raise additional funds to rebuilt the nation. One such was to legalize gambling on some select sports, such as the Keirin, a Japanese style of track cycling, competed on at the 47 velodromes across the country. Keirin racing has grown to become a multi-billion dollar industry that is heavily regulated by the Japanese Keirin Association (JKA/NJS). Racing is so heavily regulated in order to mitigate race fixing, that racers can only use one type of wheel spoke, one type of handlebar, rims, stem, tires, hubs, two choices of cranks (Sugino or Dura-Ace) and a variety of NJS approved steel bicycle frame builders. Keirin racing in Japan is a very lucrative sport, with professionals earning salaries ranging from $200,000 to over a million.
In order to become a professional Keirin racer in Japan, one must first attend the Keirin School, tucked away in the steep hills of the Izu Peninsula, under the ever-watchful eye of Mt. Fuji. At the Keirin School, cadets learn from the old masters of the sport, veterans of the velodrome battles. Cadets must live at the school for nearly a year, studying all aspects of the sport from the rules of racing, training methods and bicycle maintenance. Cadets are not allowed to have cell-phones, cars or computers. The must live together, eat together and train together, embracing and enduring a spartan life on their path to mastering the keirin.